With their playoff lives on the line tonight, the Colorado Avalanche need a huge game out of their best player, Nathan MacKinnon. Throughout the playoffs he’s put himself in the conversation as one of the best players in the league and to force Game 7 they’ll need another elite performance out of him.
In Game 5, MacKinnon was shut down by one of the best defensive pairings in the league. Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic held MacKinnon to just one shot and not even a dangerous one. It took until the 13-minute mark of the third period for him to get his one and only shot, taking a one-timer from the perimeter.
Vlasic is one of, if not the best, shutdown defensemen in the game and in Game 5 he was at the top of his game. Vlasic was on the ice for 15:53 of the 22:49 MacKinnon played and he made life difficult for him.
Vlasic kept MacKinnon to the outside, using his stick to keep MacKinnon’s eyes down on the puck and not looking around for an opening. In doing so, MacKinnon couldn’t get into that gallop that makes him so deadly off-the-rush.
MacKinnon leads the playoffs in scoring chances off-the-rush by a mile.
Taking away MacKinnon’s speed is the key to throwing him off his game and in Game 5, he wasn’t able to create a single rush chance.
Game 6 tonight is in Colorado so the Avalanche have the advantage of last change. They need to get MacKinnon away from that defensive pairing and especially away from Vlasic. MacKinnon drives the bus for this team and they need to find ways to give him every opportunity to create offense. When he’s going, the rest of the Avs follow. He can create tons of energy and momentum but if Vlasic has another exceptional shutdown game he’ll be hard pressed to get his team fired up.
(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)